Day 5: the Ace Combat series OSTs – Keiki Kobayashi + the Namco Sound Team
(specifically Ace Combat Zero and Ace Combat 5)
About the album(s)
First off, I know you’re probably asking, “Why two OSTs (Official Soundtracks) instead of one?” To which I’ll reply if this: because when you listen to these OSTs, they are not regular albums. They are music compositions. Beautiful music compositions. Composed by the Namco-Bandai Sound Team, led by composer Keiki Kobayashi, the OSTs to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War give you sense of the story in game and the emotion that goes on.
No one track is the same on either OST and the sound of each is completely different from the other. Ace Combat 5‘s OST features a full orchestra that shifts between tehcno-orchestral, electro-rock, and full orchestra which ultimately sets the plot. Ace Combat Zero‘s OST features a more Spanish flair to it, but keeps with the full bodied emotion of the game and plot.
Thoughts on the tracklisting
I could take 5 days just to explain what I think on the total 135 songs between the two. That’s how much I love these two OSTs. Easily the centerpiece of the Ace Combat 5 OST, “The Unsung War” brings it home. It’s a seven minute war anthem featuring epic orchestration and some of most beautiful choral writing in video game history. How a piece can simultaneously so powerful yet tear jerking is beyond me.
Other centerpieces of the Ace Combat 5 OST include “Razgriz” and “The Journey Home”, which are two reflective that were exclusively orchestrated and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic for the album release. The original versions are on the fourth disc and “The Journey Home” is quite a highlight as the main vocal theme of the soundtrack. While Mary-Elizabeth McGlynn gives an elegant performance, the classically-oriented radio version can be even more poignant given it has the sound of an old World War II performance.
That said one of the last songs ties it up in a beautiful, elegant, and masterful bow… “Epilogue” offers one of the most rich and personal orchestrations of the score. Oddly enough the last song of the OST is “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd.
Ace Combat Zero’s OST, has a more flamenco flair to it, when compared to the previous installment’s OST. The first disc of the OST is most mission themes however disc two contains everything else. The climax of the soundtrack is really something. “Avalon” is a memorable penultimate stage theme since it blends a powerful reprise of the Zero main theme with the abstract percussive emphasis of earlier tracks in the soundtrack.
But Kobayashi and his Sound Team save the best for last with the final mission theme “Zero”. He offers a curious twist on his standard orchestra and chorus approach by also incorporating extravagant Spanish guitar work. Much of the theme is a momentous reprise of the Zero main theme, but there are plenty of contrasting sections to keep emotions high. In particular, the choral section beginning at 2:58 is simply one of the finest moments in video game music industry.
Thoughts on the album(s)
I can’t not begin to rave over these beautiful pieces of orchestration. Kobayashi and the rest of the Namco Sound Team pulled out all the stops with these two. There is nothing more epic than trying to bring down a falling space nuclear weapons system with the backing of a full-bodied European orchestra (Warsaw Philharmonic). Or nothing is more epic than trying to stop a nuclear warhead from wiping out humanity and stopping an old friend turned enemy with classical Spanish guitar and orchestral pieces playing.
The OSTs are one of a kind. While yes, like most albums and OSTs, they do have drawbacks and flaws, the sound and production make up for it.
Simply beautiful. That’s all I can really say. It doesn’t matter if these are from video games; you get the same feeling from music from bands and artists. The two OSTs are a must own… not just based on the rarity of them, but because of the sound and value.